Mild Mental Illness 'Raises Risk of Premature Death'
By Emily Selvadurai Health reporter, BBC News online July 31, 2012
People with mild mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression are more likely to die early, say researchers.
They looked at the premature deaths from conditions such as heart disease and cancer of 68,000 people in England.
The research suggested low level distress raised the risk by 16%, once lifestyle factors such as drinking and smoking were taken into account.
More serious problems increased it by 67%, the University College London and Edinburgh University team said.
The risk among those with severe mental health problems is already well documented.
But researchers said the finding among those with milder cases - thought to be one in every four people - was concerning, as many would be undiagnosed.
The Wellcome Trust-funded study, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at data over 10 years and matched it to information on death certificates.
This is the largest study so far to show an association between psychological distress and death, according to scientists.
Lead author Dr Tom Russ said: "The fact that an increased risk of mortality was evident, even at low levels of psychological distress, should prompt research into whether treatment of these very common, minor symptoms can modify this increased risk of death."
John Williams, head of neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust, said: "This study highlights the need to ensure they have access to appropriate health care and advice so that they can take steps to improve the outcome of their illness."
Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the charity Rethink, said: "Sadly, these findings do not come as a surprise.
"While this study looks at depression and anxiety, people with severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia die, on average, 20 years earlier than the rest of us. It's an absolute scandal.
"There is a huge lack of awareness amongst health professionals about the increased risk of physical illness for this group, which means people are dying needlessly every day."
Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "Even what may be considered mild depression can cut short a person's life, not only through the use of alcohol, cigarettes and other substances, but by directly affecting the recovery from physical illnesses such as heart disease.
"The debilitating effects on a person's life can lead them to neglect themselves and their management of long-term conditions such as diabetes or cancer."
Study Links Mild Mental Illness and Early Death
by The Press Association August 3, 2012
Sufferers of mild mental illnesses have an increased risk of dying earlier, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.
People who have anxiety or depression were more likely to die from premature death conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
The Wellcome Trust-funded study, looked at the records of 68,000 people in England and found that low level distress increased the risk of premature death by 16%, even when lifestyle factors were taken into consideration.
The effect of more severe mental health problems on life expectancy has previously been well-researched and the University College London and Edinburgh University team’s findings matched previous findings.
They found that severe mental illness increased the risk of early death by 67%. The research is believed to be the largest study to find a link between psychological distress and premature death.
But scientists said that the increased risk found in those with milder cases, which is thought to be one out of every four people, was concerning, as these illnesses were more likely to go undiagnosed.
The researchers studied 10 years worth of data and matched it to the cause of death given on death certificates.
Lead author Dr Tom Russ said: “The fact that an increased risk of mortality was evident, even at low levels of psychological distress, should prompt research into whether treatment of these very common, minor symptoms can modify this increased risk of death.”
- Russ T C et al (2012) Association between psychological distress and mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 10 prospective cohort studies. BMJ. Published online 31 July 2012.